Now that you have an idea of what category your flop falls into, we come down to the little details of betting. Unlike with your hole cards, where blinds force action at the table, checking all the way around the table after a flop is possible.
The way that players bet on the flop, and especially your position at the table, come into play here.
When you’re playing Hold’em, on the hole card and flop rounds, you bet one set amount. The amount you bet doubles on the turn and the river.
Because of this, you may want to make some bets now in an effort to not make more costly bets later. You may also want to wait and not represent a good hand just yet — this strategy may give you a chance to make more money later.
Sizing up the table for a bet
The prime rule of anything economic — but especially Poker — is to maximize your wins and minimize your losses. With all betting actions at a Poker table, this concept should ride paramount in your mind.
Asking yourself a few questions helps. And don’t sweat it: At first these questions may seem like a lot to consider, but after you’ve played some, they’ll become second nature.
How many players do you want?
If you have a very good hand, you may well want as many players in the hand as you can keep. The amount you’re betting will double on the next round, so anyone who is still in the hand at the end of this round will be forced to decide to play for double in the next. This is great if you’re on top and sucks rocks if you’re not.
If you make any fence sitters fold now, you definitely won’t get their bets next round.
However, if you have a hand that can be beaten with a draw (or a wide number of draws), you may want to bet to get people out of the hand now — or at the very least make them pay to see cards.
Who is still left to act in the hand and how do they behave?
If you have some monster opponent at your table who always raises and always plays to the end, don’t go out firing a bet if you lack confidence in your hand. You know that guy is going to raise, and there’s no need to squander an extra bet.
Likewise, if you know that a player at the table only plays post-flop when she has a nut hand, go ahead and set a bet out right now. If she folds, you’re done. If she calls, you know your hand has to get significantly better on the turn or she has you beat. It’s still been a good bet on your part, though, because you found out the strength of her hand now, while the betting is half-priced.
Making the bet
If there has been heavy raising and reraising pre-flop, especially if any of it has come from behind you, you’re better off checking around the table than letting that player bet again — regardless of what happened with your hand on the flop. Nine times out of ten the raiser will be on some kind of adrenaline rush anyway from looking at a nice pair of hole cards, and he’ll go ahead and fire a bet right on out when given a chance.
By checking to him, you save yourself a raise, and even if you want to raise, the check-raise will almost certainly work here.
Assuming you don’t have any maniacal super-aggressive beasts prowling at your table, if the flop has fit your hand, you should bet it. If you’re playing the cards we recommend (and you should be, at least until you get supremely comfortable with the game), you’re going to be folding the vast majority of hands. You’ll be folding so much that when you do play a hand, you need a return on your betting investment.
In general, it takes a better hand to call than it does to bet, so by betting, you’re gleaning (somewhat imperfect) information about the hands around the table. You’re also taking control of the game, which has some value.
If you get raised when you make a bet, consider both your opponent (for example, is she the kind of person who typically does this) and especially reexamine the flop (is there something in the flop you’re missing?).
Straight draws and flush draws are the obvious threats, and they can easily sneak up on you. The other thing that will nail you is hidden trips. Someone (usually in late position) holds a smaller pair and may have managed to match the board.
If you have four cards to a straight or flush, from a purely mathematical point of view, the best thing to do is to check because the odds are that you will not be making your straight or flush. However, if you think that you have a pretty good chance of getting people to fold by betting, you should go ahead and bet the hand here.
If you’re the last person to act and everyone has checked to you, you should bet if the flop fits your hand in any way. This bet implies to the table that you do, in fact, have a hand — and on extremely tight tables, it may win the pot for you outright.
From later position, check only if you have a true monster hand (which will guarantee a win on the next card at double the betting value) or the flop missed you entirely.